Every fairy tale has the same formula. It begins with, “Once upon a time…” and ends with, “they lived happily ever after.” Ask almost any person what they want out of life, and they’ll most likely reply, “I just want to be happy.” As Americans, the pursuit of happiness is written into the U.S. Declaration of Independence. We view it as a right. We deserve to be happy. It’s essential to our way of life. But, while we’re free to pursue happiness, there’s no guarantee we’ll find it. The secret is knowing where to look.
Most people look for happiness in their circumstances (jobs, possessions, health, entertainment, sports) or in their relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, children, or friends) only to discover that things and people change. So looking for happiness in them never satisfies our longings.
God’s Word, however, promises true happiness to all who follow what it says. The Bible, then, is either a fairy tale that we shouldn’t take seriously, or it speaks truth that tells us how to find lasting happiness (and why we won’t if we don’t). Psalm 1 shows us that to live happily ever after, we must depend totally on God and His Word.
1 How truly happy is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the pathway of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in obeying God’s commands, and he meditates on them day and night. 3 He is like a tree transplanted by irrigated water canals that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
God says there are two pathways of life open to us: one means happiness, blessedness, and fruitfulness, but the other means unhappiness, consequences, and worthlessness. Happiness is a choice, but to be happy, we must, by faith, depend on God and the commands of His Word rather than the counsel of the world, the advice of people we know, the experiences we’ve had, the circumstances we’re going through, or the emotions we feel.
“Happy” or “Blessed,” in Hebrew (אַשְׁרֵי), is a plural of intensity. The word stems from a verb meaning to go on or advance. If you want to advance to the fullest measure of happiness, the psalmist explains we have two responsibilities that lead to one result that God produces. To the extent we fulfill our responsibilities, we can expect God to complete the result.
The first responsibility is our devotion to obeying God’s Word. “How truly happy is the person… whose delight is in obeying God’s commands.” What does it mean to delight in God’s Word? The word is used in the Old Testament (Gen. 34:19; Esther 2:14) of a man delighting in a woman. Oh, yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! Have you noticed that when a young man delights in a woman, he rearranges his priorities so that suddenly he has plenty of time to spend with her? And he doesn’t do it because he has to; he wants to! Nothing interferes with his time with the object of his delight! Do we delight in obeying God’s Word in that way? The Bible, after all, is God’s love letter to us. When we read the Bible, we’re reading the counsel of a loving, all-wise Heavenly Father as to how we should live. His commandments are given for us to delight in, not just knowing or studying them, but obeying them for our lasting happiness, our personal protection, our ultimate good. It should be no more of a duty to spend time in with God in His Word so that we can obey Him than it is for a young man to devote his time with the beautiful woman he adores. The way to true happiness is to delight in God’s Word.
The second responsibility is our meditation on God’s Word. “How truly happy is the person… who meditates on God’s commands day and night.” Meditation is to reading what digestion is to eating: chewing on it, letting it become part of you. We’re to meditate on God’s commands continually (“day and night”), which implies thinking about the Word well enough to impact our decisions all day long. Whatever shapes our thinking will eventually shape our lives. The only way for us to find happiness that lasts is to be continually meditating on, thinking about, and chewing on the Word of God and how it applies to how we think, what be believe, and how we behave within every relationship, every attitude, and every decision. As we delight in obeying and meditating upon God and His Word, we will find true happiness.
The result that God produces is our transformation for His glory and our good. The person who delights in obeying God’s Word and meditates on it is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” This is a tree that has been intentionally transplanted, deliberately cultivated, and is continuously nourished by a planned irrigation system so that its roots have a constant supply of water. With roots that are firmly established, this tree is able to withstand days of drought and the severest of storms. Its leaves do not wilt or fade so it’s fruitful to God and provides shade to others.
Through His transformation, God promises our ultimate happiness: “In whatever he does, he prospers.” This is not a guarantee of future financial worth, but a promise that the person fully depending on God’s Word is always useful and fruitful to the Lord. Prosperity is not by physical wealth, physical health, or popularity, but primarily by spiritual growth with God and capacity for life with people and in service. The point of the tree simile, then, is to give a picture of the lasting happiness we will find when we turn away from Godless thinking, believing, and living and look, instead, to a life with God through faith in Jesus based on His Word.
Only by depending on God and living by the unchanging truth of His Word will we live happily ever after. And that’s no fairy tale!
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.